Wittenberg, Germany, is designated as a “Luther” town for its significance in the life of Luther, and is used to promote cultural travel to the country. // © 2016 German National Tourist Office
Feature image (above): This year’s Germany Travel Mart was held in the city of Magdeburg. // © 2016 German National Tourist Office
Each year, travel professionals come together at Germany Travel Mart, hosted by the German National Tourist Board (GNTB), to celebrate the country’s rich history, culture and cuisine with performances, regional delicacies and cultural immersion. And this year’s 42nd annual event was no less impressive.
From April 17-19, Germany Travel Mart 2016, held in the city of Magdeburg in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, brought together tourism experts and media once again to discover and commemorate what makes Germany special. The highlight of the event was a two-day B2B exchange, where buyers and sellers learned about the country’s latest trends, developments and tourism products.
More than 500 account managers and media representatives attended the B2B workshop at Messe Magdeburg trade-fair center. Around 300 exhibitors from the hotel and transport industries, together with local and regional tourism organizations, showcased the variety of Germany’s inbound tourism. The location choice of Magdeburg for this year’s event had much to do with preparing for next year’s milestone: the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in Germany. Next year, the GNTB will be using its “Luther 2017 - 500 years since the Reformation in Germany” campaign to focus on towns, cities and regions in Saxony-Anhalt that are associated with Martin Luther, who led the Reformation in the 16th century.
Since 2008, the GNTB has been promoting additional aspects of culture that tie in with Luther to draw attention to the 500th anniversary, working with partners including the Luther 2017 coordinating office, the Evangelical Church in Germany, the tourism organizations of the states and the main towns and cities in Germany with historical links to Luther.
There are more than 800 million Protestants all over the world, and of these, 73 million are Lutheran. The people and places associated with the Reformation hit home to millions of international visitors, and Germany will be capitalizing on the importance of the link between past and present.
“The people and places associated with the Reformation are cultural treasures that are recognized all over the world and therefore eminently suitable for promoting cultural travel to Germany in overseas markets,” said Petra Hedorfer, CEO of the GNTB, at the Germany Travel Mart’s opening press conference.
Eight Luther routes that connect important locations in his life have been developed for travelers. These points include the three official Luther towns of Wittenberg, Eisleben and Mansfield; Wartburg Castle in Eisenach; and destinations such as Torgau, Schmalkalden, Erfurt, Augsburg, Coburg, Worms and Heidelberg. All held important significance in the life and progression of Luther.
At the opening press conference, key GNTB officials discussed Germany’s tourism success in 2015: Inbound tourism reached almost 79.7 million overnight stays, a record result for the sixth year in a row.
“The figures for 2015 exceeded our own expectations and the UNWTO forecasts, which assume a global increase in tourism traffic of around 3 to 4 percent,” Hedorfer said. “We are expecting the upward trend to continue in 2016.”
Additionally, from 2003 to 2015, the number of overnight stays from European and overseas visitors more than doubled.
“Germany is the fifth most popular destination for international travelers in Europe,” Hedorfer said.
But while 2015 was another record-breaking year, there is an air of caution on the horizon as Germany — and Europe in general — tackle heightened security issues.
“There will be the possibility of further growth,” Hedorfer said, “And Germany, from our vantage point today in this context, will also have to face challenges, as will all people and countries in the world. We do see the security situation at the present time affecting tourism. It has been a wake-up call for us, meaning we have to watch out for public spaces and secure them in a different manner.”
Germany’s tourism infrastructure is used by millions of people every day, according to the GNTB, and the board assured members of the media that it was all 100 percent secure.
“We can’t predict the next terrorist act,” Hedorfer said. “But the federal government has done everything in its power to counteract these types of events. In Germany, we can say our transportation systems and our mobility has been unaffected, and we do hope that guests and international visitors will feel secure.”
With that said, Germany’s forecast for 2016’s tourism growth is slightly lower, around 1 to 3 percent.
While 2017 will be the year of Luther, the GNTB has plans for celebrating other aspects of German history and culture farther afield. 2018 will be devoted to Germany’s culinary scene; and 2019 will be the year of architecture and culture, celebrating 100 years of Bauhaus and the 200th birthday of German novelist and poet Theodor Fontane. Finally, Beethoven will dominate 2020, as Germany celebrates the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth.
Next year’s Germany Travel Mart will be held in April 2017 in Nuremberg, Bavaria.